Oral Histories

Interview of Laura Allen

Educator in the area of greywater systems and Greywater Action founder. Author of The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve, Capture, and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape. Resident of Los Angeles Eco-Village.
Series:
Environmental Activism in Los Angeles
Topic:
Social Movements
Environmental Movement
Interviewer:
Collings, Jane
Interviewee:
Allen, Laura
Persons Present:
Allen and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Allen’s home at Los Angeles Eco-Village in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, interviewer and senior editor, Center for Oral History Research. B.A., Communications, Antioch College; M.A., Communications, University of Iowa; Ph.D., Critical Studies, UCLA. Collings prepared for the interview by attending the panel discussion series Just Add Water, co-sponsored by the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and reading relevant primary and secondary sources, among them the “Aqueduct at 100” issue of Boom: a Journal of California.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Allen was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
Length:
2.5 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Series Statement:
The series documents environmental activism in the Los Angeles area from the 1970s through to the present day. The majority of interviews are with either founders or knowledgeable participants in major regional environmental organizations. Represented groups embody a wide range of issues, including conservation, restoration, environmental justice and toxic waste disposal.
Early life; An early interest in looking at sources of household water; Experiments with a greywater system; Semi-rural upbringing;The contrasting political and environmental points of view in Eureka and Arcata; Attends University of California, Berkeley (UCB);Volunteers with Food Not Bombs; The focus of the environmental science program at UCB; Learns plumbing; A first greywater project; Publishes and distributes a ‘zine on greywater issues; Turns issues of the ‘zine into the book Damnation: Dispatches from the Water Underground ; The environmental destruction caused by dams; Allen’s advocacy for direct change within one’s home; An increasing focus on making greywater systems legal; Transition from a grassroots organization to more concerted efforts in 2005; Conducts plumbing workshops for greywater systems; The high demand for the workshops; Shifting the focus to the issue of making greywater systems legal; The state legislature asks for the re-writing of the greywater plumbing code; Greywater Guerillas publicizes the code writing process and engenders widespread public participation; Shifting the conception of stakeholder to water users rather than focusing on plumbing manufacturers; The definition of wastewater; Hearings for new greywater codes bring forward a multiplicity of views; The Universal Plumbing Code; The work of re-writing the greywater section of the code; The challenge of balancing numerous conflicting codes, most of which are driven by industry; Some measure of improvement in the Universal Plumbing Code; Participates in Greywater Guerilla Girls; More on the greywater workshops; Art Ludwig; Steve Bilson’s company, ReWater; Groups and cities that were actively involved in the code-changing effort; Incentives for people to install greywater systems; The greywater conversion process; A name change to Greywater Action to be more inclusive; Obstacles at the agency level to promoting graywater water saving systems; The unsustainability of lawns; Santa Rosa as being in the forefront of graywater system implementation; Large water recycling demonstration sites in San Francisco; Allen’s involvement in Los Angeles workshops at Eco-Village; The Greywater Alliance; The Eco-Village approach to water use and re-use; Works with Los Angeles building department on city water use issues; Issues with building officials blocking water department initiatives.
The issue of blackwater in California; Permit issues for composting toilets; The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO)’s Green Supplement includes a code for composting toilets; IAPMO’s method of gathering information on new ways of doing things; Navigating the conflict between code writers and enforcers and grassroots activists; The difficulty that water agencies can only promote technologies that are already legal; Obstacles posed by the permitting process; The importance of personal contacts for quizzing agency people about their policies; The importance of small-scale demonstration projects for educating agency people about greywater systems; Successful discussions with the city council in San Francisco and Oakland; The impact of drought conditions on greywater advocacy work.